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Effie rodeo-goers urged to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after attendee tests positive, owner sued

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed a complaint against an Itasca County company that organized and promoted a three-day rodeo that allegedly drew large crowds after the state imposed a spectator limit for the event.

Ellison's action came after the state Department of Health announced Friday that one spectator at the North Star Stampede Rodeo July 25-27 in Effie has tested positive for COVID-19.

Ellison says the owner of North Star Ranch, LLC was upset with the governor's executive order to limit the event to 250 fans and promoted the event on its Facebook page as a protest against government overreach.

The company's answering machine was not accepting messages Friday.

The Minnesota Department of Health said "a Minnesota resident from a neighboring county" attended the event in Itasca County, which ran from July 25-27.

That person developed symptoms July 27 and tested positive the same day, according to state health officials.

Because people are infectious several days before symptom onset, health officials determined the person was infectious while at the event.

Minnesota's Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said it's not known how many of the several thousand people who attended the event may have been exposed, but state health officials are still investigating and trying to determine whom the person may have had contact with at the event.

“People may have been infected with the virus, and we have an opportunity to prevent additional spread of the disease if we can get those in attendance to take the necessary precautions,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

“If you attended this event, you should consider yourself potentially exposed," Malcolm said. "That means you should be watching for symptoms and if you do develop symptoms, seek health care and get tested. In the meantime, please limit your public interactions and activities for 14 days, practice social distancing and wear a mask during all interactions with others.”

Health officials said they have not connected any other confirmed cases to this event as of Friday afternoon, but the incubation period for COVID-19 can be as long as 14 days.

“Our concern with this situation is heightened because we know that many people at this event were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing,” said Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease at the Minnesota Department of Health.

The following Itasca County facilities are providing testing for rodeo attendees who may have been exposed:

Scenic Rivers/Bigfork Valley, Bigfork: Call 877-541-2817 or 218-743-3232 to be screened by a nurse and arrange drive-up testing as appropriate.  You must have an appointment.  Scenic Rivers Clinic-Bigfork is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and Saturdays, 8:00 a.m. - noon.  COVID testing hours are Monday through Friday, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Essentia Health, Deer River: First complete an E-visit with Essentia Health.  Essentia offers swabbing in Deer River seven days per week, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital, Grand Rapids: Call 218-326-7344 to request a telephone visit with provider, provider will provide instruction for curbside testing. Testing hours are 8:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m., seven days per week.

Briggs LeSavage

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